The End of All Things

The end of all things? What? What are you calling a thing? Are you a smell creeping through cement? Are you an arc? Bird in a pond? Are you light what the fuck light what light? Are you space? Emptiness? Chowder? Are you a tutu on a cockroach? A can of cake? Who gave you these ideas? What gives? What smacks you in the face? What takes your breath away? What face? What breath? A small dog wanders through a field, of indeterminate breed but probably a short-haired terrier mix. The field is broad and overgrown, past flowering. In the distance, to the dog’s back and right, a line of deciduous trees. The dog is cresting a small hill. Across the top, inexplicably, runs an old stone wall, crumbling but mostly intact. The dog leaps easily upon a low point in the wall and pauses, perching there to survey the other side, panting and drinking in the air.

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ANNOUNCE  ::  I have three readings coming up in November, two of them coming up fast. So hear ye, hear ye!  ::  Friday, November 3 – New York small press  great weather for MEDIA hits the Bay Area as part of their West Coast tour to celebrate the release of The Other Side of Violet, their new international anthology of poetry, prose, and everything in-between and out-of-bounds. With Jane Ormerod (from NY), Jessica Barksdale Inclán (Oakland), Carol Dorf (Berkeley), Patrick Cahill (SF), Maw Shein Win (El Cerrito), Julian Mithra (Oakland), Jan Steckel (Oakland), and moi (wherever I’m from). 7 – 9 pm at Alley Cat Books on 24th Street in SF.  ::  Saturday, November 4 – great weather for MEDIA dives into the East Bay as part of their West Coast tour, this time at the fabulous Octopus Literary Salon in Uptown Oakland. I’ll be hosting this one, with readers Jane Ormerod (from NY),  Carol Dorf (Berkeley), Ken Saffran (SF), and Oakland crew Jessica Barksdale Inclán, Julian Mithra, Natasha Dennerstein, and SB Stokes. This should be a DNA-shifting event, so come by and mutate!  ::  Thursday, November 16 – I will be co-hosting Babar in Exile #11 along with, of course, the quite alive Paul Corman-Roberts. This is a special edition that we’re calling Babar in Requiem, and it’s dedicated to reading the work of Cafe Babar and Above Paradise poets from the 80’s and 90’s who have left us (i.e., died). Two features will read the work of specific writers, and the for the open mic we’ll provide books by a number of poets who’ve passed, and ask folks to read from them. As usual, it’s at 7pm at Octopus Literary Salon in Uptown Oakland. Be there for the angels.  ::  And finally, Saturday, November 18 – I’m absolutely honored to be the FIRST FEATURE at a BRAND NEW OPEN MIC SERIES in Oakland, 2 – 4 pm at Gearbox Gallery in Uptown Oakland. Open mic signup starts at 1:30, so get there early and share your shit! I promise to be amazing. Deets for all on the Events page.

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You’re still playing a game even if you think you’re not. That’s called Trying To Get Up For Breakfast. That’s called Leaving The House. That’s called Trying To Make Things Right. That’s called Telling People Who You Are. If you’re trying to do anything, more than likely you are still adhering to rules, especially if you think you’re not. The laws of physics and the laws of presumption are intricately intertwined, and it’s hard to smile at one puppy without shunning another. There’s so much sway and momentum, so much teetering on the edge. That’s called Not Spilling The Wine. That’s called I Am Standing Up Now. That’s called I Know What You Think But This Is Mine.

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REFLECT  ::  I had a major meltdown in a casino a couple weeks ago, which is not a big surprise considering how much I hate casinos. But rather than a slight repulsion, the likes of which I get every time I have to stop through the Las Vegas airport, this time felt more like I’d received an enormous dose of Capitalist poison on a cellular level, and I was sick mentally and physically for days afterward. The irony is that this was at Lake Tahoe, one of the most stunningly beautiful spots on the damn planet; but of course those casinos have always been an irony there, a smack in the face to nature. As if nature can’t slap back. She certainly slapped me back, though she’s been trying to keep me away from those environments for decades for some reason. I’d gotten two free nights at a hotel up there through Kars 4 Kids (yes, the car donation service with those extremely obnoxious ads – but they really do offer two nights in a variety of cities for your donation), and drove on up with the bf Victor Smith for the weekend. We were both looking forward to the nature – the air, the smell of fall leaves, clear clear sky over deepest lake – and we got a good dose of that for sure. Had a couple walks in woods, with a touch of snow here and there, a tiny bit of clambering on rocks, a couple good sits gazing and breathing, and a view of a few Orionid meteors that were streaking through the dark sky late Friday night. Went to an awesome local diner both mornings, the Red Hut Cafe in Stateline, which is now firmly ensconced in my diner collection. And we also went to a couple of casinos. Victor enjoys them, or finds them amusing and innocuous. My feelings are known, but I said I’d check ’em out anyway, on the off-chance that we might make back a little bit of the cash we were spending on the trip, and that maybe my opinion might change a bit. (It didn’t.) On the first night, we went by the somewhat drab little casino we were staying at (no names here, though the room was really nice), and I was surprised (or just naive) to find that they are smoking-allowed, and were in fact filled with chain-smokers and with dense, acrid air. Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I was in fact a smoker for 25 years, that it took me seven years to finally quit, and that not surprisingly, as with the case of many ex-smokers, I find the fumes offensive – recognizing how hard the addiction is to break – but as well I find the habit politically offensive, since it is a huge, insidious, and murderous industry that funds a deep right-wing agenda. We didn’t stay long for that reason (mostly just the damn smoke), though I did find one slot machine that I found amusing (it had spaceships and cows, and moo’ed at me). Still fairly innocuous, to be true. The next day we took a slow drive around the lake with several stops, sat on rocks by Emerald Bay, found the house I lived in while painting ski-lifts up there in 1980 (seriously), and generally enjoyed every leaf, every glance of hill. We went to one of the bigger casinos that evening for a rather pricey but great buffet (learned that if you sign up for a free players card, you get a big discount), then decided to try the slots downstairs for a little longer. We separated, and I tried a few machines, eventually settling for the alien cows (I liked those moos), and tried, really tried to enjoy it, but ultimately found it increasingly, then hauntingly, then painfully, boring, staring at bright colors and hitting a button again and again and again and again just to hear a few moos and quacks and sirens. I suppose that I do push a lot of buttons at home to watch videos, but at least they have a story (or some pretense of), rather than just shifting patterns of images that honestly felt a bit schizophrenic to me. And ultimately dull and deadening. So that’s what I was feeling when the nicotine hit me, and hit me hard. I felt my brain chemistry shift, felt it soak me through, and looked around to a vision of apocalypse, a room filled with acid fumes and seizure-teasing glitter, literally smoke and mirrors, filled with empty-eyed mammals stumbling zombie-like, Pavlovian from bell to bell, brains drained of motive but for a spastic limb-clench and jaw-clench and mind-clench, glazed and sucking those fumes and that booze and scrambling for the teat, the teat of Amerika, the teat of Kapital, the teat of death. I looked around and saw in deepest detail the not-there of American life, a blooming culture of poison and madness and death that shuns the sky, the earth, the human touch. I was pretty sure I was about to puke – and I wasn’t even drinking (maybe I should have been). I found Victor and told him as much, that I was not enjoying this, was feeling sick and having an existential crisis and had to get out of there right now. We did, and I spent the next several hours trying not to heave and freaking out at the slightest hint of tobacco on our clothes, in our hair, in my brain. As I mention, it took me a few days to shake it off, and to stop feeling nauseous, and though we had a nice game of putt-putt golf and a brief walk in the woods before leaving the next day, I sure wasn’t fun to be around that night, and didn’t make Victor’s time there terribly more fun and shiny either, and I feel bad about it to this day. (Sorry again, Victor.) But I also feel that I’m not wrong in this vision, not wrong to have it, that however extreme it was that particular night, spurred by a sickening and unwanted drug in my brain, it does still jive with my feelings about Capitalism and substance use and gambling and the sway of those and other addictions, human idiocies that ultimately make us into lemmings, harbingers of secret despair ready to give ourselves up to the current, to stop striving and just go with the noxious flow, or worse yet throw ourselves in front of a speeding truck. I can see that final prospect somewhat easier to arrive at in the dense urban muck of a post-Capitalist metropolis, but who would want to do that in such a gorgeous place? How did we get here, really? And isn’t there a better way to spend our time on this luscious globe?

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And so things begin, or so the misnomer goes. Pulse of the heart, a fresh gust, an egg drops. Two stones tumbling down a ravine. The brain sparks a new sequence, neurons surge and we ohh and ahh. Revelation is at hand. Revelation is always at hand. Your fingertips a micron away from silk. The first scent of rose in the spring, as if spring had never come before. We are built to begin, and begin, and turn to beginnings. The start of your next breath. Your first gush of hormones. I sat next to an infant as his mother announced he’d never tasted an orange, then put a slice to his lips. At that moment his eyes were gazing into mine. I saw his pupils widen and I saw his brain inside flood with orange for the first time. Your pupils widen. You widen and renew. You beam. You cast a shine. The globe broadens around you. Are you mass? Are you space? Are you light?

Sincerely,
Richard

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